Pakistan: neo-Taliban gain ground in NWFP

Army helicopter gunships continue to pound neo-Taliban positions in the Swat and Shangla districts of Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province, in an operation which has taken some 100 lives this week. Officials said a Taliban commander known as Matiullah was killed in the air-strikes on Nov. 15. Maulana Fazlullah, the militant movement’s fugitive frontman, is said to have led the dead commander’s funeral prayers. But the militants succeeded in capturing the police headquarters in Matta and Alpuri, seats of Swat and Shangla, respectively. The New York Times showed a masked gunman, identified as a follower of Fazlullah’s Movement for the Enforcement of Islamic Laws, standing guard outside the Matta police station with an armed personnel carrier under his watchful eye. This represents a significant expansion of the militant movement deeper into Pakistan from the Tribal Areas along the Afghan border, its traditional base. With the local constabulary and paramilitary Frontier Corps overwhelmed, Islamabad has sent some 2,000 army troops into the region since July, but they have failed to stop the militants from spreading their area of control. (Daily Times, Pakistan, Nov. 17; NYT, Asian News International, Nov. 16)

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